Laos’ National Regulatory Authority for UXO and Mine Action (NRA) is continuing to seek funding for its operations because the budget allocated to victim assistance is very limited.
Minister for Labour and Social Welfare and NRA chairman Dr Khampheng Saysompheng reported on the matter during an annual meeting to review progress made in the authority’s work plan for 2020 victim assistance.
The work plan is part of the new UXO National Strategic Plan “Safe Path Forward III” (2021-2030) in alignment with Sustainable Development Goal 18 and the 2030 Agenda.
Dr Khampheng said the strategy will form the basis on which the 5-Year National Plan is developed. It is essential to ensure that unexploded ordnance (UXO) is mainstreamed across all sectors through the nationally endorsed SDG-18, “Lives Safe from UXO”.
UXO continues to be an obstacle to economic and social development, contaminating land that could otherwise be used for agriculture, industry, tourism and the construction of infrastructure.
The NRA’s UXO victim assistance programme takes place alongside community awareness-raising and risk education campaigns in target areas. The NRA, with support from donor countries, provided support to 64 UXO victims and survivors this year, including medical care for 34 people and vocational training for 30 others.
The new five-year (2021-2025) UXO strategy aims to provide more comprehensive support to UXO survivors and their families.
Dr Khampheng said vast tracts of land remain contaminated with UXO, amounting to about 10,000ha. All of this must be surveyed and cleared of UXO so that development can go ahead.
One of the major challenges for the government is sourcing funding for clearance operations.
The meeting reviewed and drafted an improved defined clearance operational framework and clearance methodologies to increase productivity and enhance safety, effectiveness and efficiency.
Last year there were 19 UXO-related accidents in which 34 people were injured and some deaths were reported. UXO surveys and clearance are currently underway in Xieng Khuang, Khammuan, Savannakhet, Saravan, Xekong and Attapeu provinces.
More public awareness-raising activities will be carried out in a bid to reduce the number of UXO casualties to less than 40 a year.
VIENTIANE TIMES/ASIA NEWS NETWORK